Dear Friend of Berry College:
"One nation, under God, indivisible”: The familiar words from the Pledge of Allegiance have held special meaning during the weeks following Sept. 11, 2001. When I was a child in school, we mumbled those words every morning and gave too little thought to the power of the pledge. Now those five words offer Americans both a solace and challenge.
A Commitment To Unity
Our solace is a national commitment to unity. Among the names of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorism were Golinski, Iskenddarian, Mbaya, Nguyen, Powell and Vamsikrishna. Among the rescue workers who perished were people named Callahan, Colasanti, Freehan, Gray and Tarasiewicz. Firefighters and police officers of every description put themselves in harm’s way to save those in peril without giving thought to their social, political or religious background. Heroism and sacrifice were not limited to ethnic identity, religious affiliation or country of origin. Many Americans have found consolation in the examples of bravery and in the spirit of common purpose that characterized responses to that terrible September day.
The challenge, of course, is keeping the promise of making this “one nation, under God, indivisible” even after the emergency has passed. We face the same challenge at Berry as we define our identity and chart our institutional path for the years ahead.
Berry Mission Blends Faith and Values
The Berry mission statement speaks of our emphasis upon values grounded in Christian principles, and it affirms that the college is dedicated to the interdenominational Christian commitment found in our tradition even as we welcome those from other religious traditions. Our strategic plan calls for a culture that is open, friendly and inviting — a culture that values and welcomes diversity.
There are some people who think the two propositions conflict. “Why do we affirm our interdenominational Christian commitment while simultaneously welcoming those who are not like us?” One answer is “Our intellectual lives are enriched by the presence and voices of diverse scholars and students.” A second response is “We must be welcoming because the very values that guide the institution demand it.” In the Christian tradition, we have been taught to love our neighbors, particularly those who are unlike ourselves. The story of the Good Samaritan is about an outsider who was nevertheless identified as a good neighbor in contrast to respectable passersby who ignored a community member’s pain. In that parable, good neighborliness lies in what one does and not in what group one belongs to.
Almost all Berry students, faculty and staff members have grown up within Christian traditions, a description that is unlikely to change in the years just ahead. Such percentages do not, however, relieve us of the responsibility of affirming what we believe by behaving with neighborliness toward those who are not like us. The new strategic plan includes an outline for putting into practice what we preach.
Berry’s coming Centennial will bring the completion of a new strategic plan, which will serve as the blueprint for the first decade of our second century. The planning process has spurred campus discussion of numerous important issues, including the creation of a more diverse campus community while affirming Berry’s commitment to Christian principles.